According to UNHCR, today we are facing the highest figures of forced movings due to conflict since the second world war: almost 60 million people have fled their homes due to war, violence or persecution. Nearly 20 million are refugees (more than a half are children) and the 86% of them are hosted in the poorest countries of the world. In 2014, an average of 42,500 people were displaced daily, that is four times more than only four years ago.
Many refugees are hosted in camps where the access to the national grid is limited, is in bad condition or does not exist. For that reason biomass burning is commonly used to meet needs such as cooking, heating or lighting. This practice provokes environmental degradation and generates, in some circumstances, health problems. In the best case, diesel generators are used but they imply very high maintenance costs.
With the aim of analysing their needs and proposing technical and organizational solutions to those shortages, two companies and one corporative foundation, leaders of renewable energy and illumination -Iberdrola, Philips Iberica and the ACCIONA Microenergia foundation-, the public administration -the Spanish Cooperation through the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation- and one university -the Technical University of Madrid through its Innovation and Technology for Development Centre- have joined.
Today, the representatives of those institutions have agreed formally that joining, by signing an accord that seals their commitment to the welfare of the most vulnerable population.
The resulting alliance works in searching for energy generation and supply systems, which must be accesible, reliable, sustainable and adapted to the refugee, displaced and vulnerable population needs in humanitarian crises. This is the first Spanish Public-Private Partnership for humanitarian action and it has the intention to continue its activities in the service of the international humanitarian community in the medium term.
The alliance has started a pilot project in the region of Shire (North of Ethiopia), where the UNHCR manages four refugee camps that host now 111,081 refugees from Eritrea.
Up to 2011, these refugee camps had no access to electricity. Nowadays, only Mai Aini and Adi Harush camps are connected to the grid, however a reinforcement and adaptation to the particularly demanding circumstances of the environment, as well as an increasing of the needs, have been identified.
A technical team of the alliance has been working in the area with the UNHCR local team and with other entitites working there. The objective is to identify the challenges in energy access and analyse the technical, social and economic feasibility of different options that improve the electricity supply, the energy generation with local sources and the lighting.
These works, besides giving an answer to concrete and actual problems of Shire camps, is expected that create a basis of useful knowledge to be available to humanitarian organizations in order to be adapted to other humanitarian crises anywhere in the world.
This project specifically explores sustainable methods of energy generation, will reinforce and improve the connection to the grid as well as the electricity distribution, and will install efficient lighting systems in specific areas of the camps.
The Innovation and Technology for Development Centre of the Technical University of Madrid (itdUPM) is formed of 15 research groups with a network of 175 researchers. It develops technological and managerial innovations to satisfy basic needs such as access to water, energy, natural resources management, basic habitability and telecommunications applied to health and education.
The Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation, which is the main management body of the Spanish Cooperation, works today in more than 30 countries through its cooperation technical offices, cultural centres and training centres. In Ethiopia, it has a Cooperation Technical Office since 2007.
The ACCIONA Microenergia foundation was started by the company ACCIONA, leader of infrastructure, renewable energy and water services, with the aim of promoting human development in remote rural areas through increasing access to basic services including energy, water and infrastructure. Today, it develops the so-called "Luz en Casa" programme in Peru and Mexico.
Iberdrola, which is a world leader in wind power and one of the top electric utilities in the world, uses to participate in energy access projects, developing the so-called "Electricidad para todos" programme that is implemented in emerging and developing countries.
Philips is a technology company, focused on improving people's lives through meaningful innovation in the areas of Healthcare, Consumer Lifestyle and Lighting. Philips wants to make the world a more healthy and sustainable place with the objective of impacting in 3,000 billion people by 2025 through its green, sanitary and welfare products.